An actuated flexible spinal mechanism for a bounding quadrupedal robot
Evolution and experience based learning have given animals body structures and motion capabilities to survive in the nature by achieving many complicated tasks. Among these animals, legged vertebrates use their musculoskeletal bodies up to the limits to achieve actions involving high speeds and agile maneuvers. Moreover the flexible spine plays a very important role in providing auxiliary power and dexterity for such dynamic behaviors. Robotics research tries to imitate such dynamic abilities on mechanical platforms. However, most existing robots performing these dynamic motions does not include such a flexible spine architecture. In this thesis we investigate how quadrupedal bounding can be achieved with the help of an actuated flexible spine. Depending upon biological correspondences we first present a novel quadruped robot model with an actuated spine and relate it with our proposed new bounding gait controller model. By optimizing our model and a standard stiff backed model via repetitive parametric methods, we investigate the role of spinal actuation on the performance enhancements of the flexible model. By achieving higher ground speeds and hopping heights we discuss the relations between flexible body structure and stride properties of a dynamic bounding gait. Furthermore, we present an analytical model of the proposed robot structure along with the spinal architecture and analyze the dynamics and active forces on the overall system. By gathering simulation results we question how such a flexible spine system can be improved to achieve higher performances during dynamic gaits.